Sunday, January 28, 2007

Fast Second: book review

On the verge of writing my previous post I started writing a review on a very interesting book. I was "frightened" of being rough, impolite, offensive somehow to the readers or to the authors.
Then, I had the occasion to read a really crude and earth-shattering review by Joel Spolsky on "Dreaming in Code" (Yep, I read his blog).
All of a sudden, my worries vanished :)

So, here is

My personal review of Fast Second (by C. C. Markides, P. A. Geroski)

It is a really interesting book, where "interesting" is twofold: the ideas expressed are interesting, and the writing style is interesting too, for it provides information by repeating the same concept in different ways. It seems to me that the most interesting thing in this book is the repetition scheme in itself.

In fact, it helps the reader by just writing the concepts twice or more, in order that the reader doesn't need to re-read the same sentence more than once. Memorization is easier because information is redundant and presented from different viewpoints (like 2D and 3D representation).

That is to say, it could have been written in half the paper, but it wouldn't have been such a light reading on such a complex matter. Books like this can be read on a noisy flight near the turbines, with a crying baby on your side, without the need to concentrate on the topic.

Uhmmm, what's missing here?

Oh yeah, I forgot the topic on which this book is focused on! The book is about competitive innovation in the mass market, it clearly advocates the strategy of waiting for a settlement of the technology evolution, then enter the mass market (well, actually it is "build a rather inexistent one") just before (or shortly after) a dominant design appears, and when most of Startups are running out of fuel.

What I don't understand is how such an ecosystem can sustain itself, and how can I estimate such a high risk (technical and financial) of entering in a typically narrow time window with big investments, which are needed to consolidate the product and create the market.

My Advice

Similar "redundant" books have been written and edited by Kathy Sierra and are called "Head First": they are far more capturing and interesting than Fast Second, and I advice to buy them if you want to stuff more things in your brain with lesser effort.

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The Porn secret lobby

It's not news.
A technology that can be exploited to transmit, transfer, share pornographic content and guarantee high revenues is a business in itself. But the real question is:

"Is Porn a relevant driver for the settling of a dominant design?"

Daniel Scocco, the author of Innovation Zen (one of my top 5 blogs) wonders whether HD-DVD will win over Blu-ray just because "Sony refused to give Blu-Ray licenses to porn movies".

I can see he recently read "Fast Second", an interesting and curiously written book about the relationship between innovation and mass market, and how, when and where a firm should enter the mass market with products based on innovative technologies.
Curiously, Fast Second omits the "P" factor, but it highlights the fact that open-standard adoption is one of the factors that make this or that design variant as the dominant one.
My thought is that Porn is just one of a more complex factor set.
Porn sits aside Music, Film, and Software. Porn is just one egg of a basket that consumers elicit as the driving force.
DRM (Digital Rigths Management) is a much stronger limitation than the "no-porn" strategy, and I bet that the technology with the weakest DRM system will definitely impose itself in the mass market.

(I wonder what happens if a VoIP company starts "renting" adult hi quality video platforms. Is that sufficient to settle as the dominant platform?)

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Cisco iSueTM strategy

It's quite strange. Cisco owns an iSomething trademark, and Apple did not try to prevent such a big brand dilution: Apple has been selling iThings (the iMac, precisely) since 1998, and if I were Steve Jobs I would have suited InfoGear, which filed the iPhone trademark in 2000, for brand dilution.

The iMac hype generated a lot of iSomething gizmos, some of them were nice, some weren't.
I think that "i" prefixed to another word is a strong identity element which, in my opinion, pertains to Apple product portfolio.
Therefore, Apple has the right to preserve its identity elements and avoid product misattribution, brand weakening, loss of dominance in a market.
For instance, I don't think Apple will allow me to sell frozen pre-cooked cod fillets with the brand name "iCod", because it will confuse consumers and think that Apple is selling food. Or, worse than ever, associate my low quality (fishy) iCod rotten sticks with Apple...

Anyway, as David Berlind speculates right before the iPhone unveiling, Apple has much more to gain than to lose, in a lawsuit with Cisco.

And, for those who do not know yet, there is another danger towards Apple brand, a trademark misuse that's called iBrator. I wonder if Cisco is interested in acquiring the owning firm...
Watch the video :)) (Quicktime)

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Apple revolution

Great things at CES by Apple Computer (yes, they removed the "Computer" word from their company name), Inc:

  • The company name has changed, so as to reflect their position in the market. Not only computers (but wait: what's the difference between a computer and an iPod, a mediacenter, a DVD recorder?)

  • iTV err, Apple TV, it seems a mini-MAC working like a mediacenter

  • iPhone... I'd suggest you to read on your own at engadget

The only thing that makes me think is this: the iPhone will have GSM/EDGE technology but no UMTS.
I trust the vision that Apple has of the future technology, and despite thinking they are just plain wrong, I try to speculate a bit on it.

3G networks have shown several issues:
  • it seems that if all the mobile users get connected, the infrastructure cannot guarantee the nominal bandwidth of 384 kbps (personally, I have a nokia 6630 which goes slower in UMTS than GPRS... I definitely wouldn't suggest my mobile provider for data connection.)
  • 3g video calls are not the golden goose that operators have thought it to be. Luca presents a good reasoning based both on personal experience and proficiency on the subject.
  • UMTS connection is really power consuming, much more than a Wi-Fi connection. It's just a matter of bandwidth and transmission power.
Moreover, data rate plans are usually expensive, if compared to a Wi-Fi connection. You can answer back that Wi-Fi coverage is not everywhere, and that you can have the need to connect everywhere.
But please, don't think that Apple is going to sell this device to flying workers, think about the mass market. The mass market is residential. It moves back and forth between two places: home and office. For the 1% of time they go out their "connection boundaries", they can afford the little expense of time necessary to connect on EDGE[1] -and they won't download big files while on the go: they'll probably download just rss news and easy reading, nothing more "complex".

Hey, EDGE is much faster than GPRS, and compared to actual 3G italian implementations it's not that bad: TIM, for instance, provides both EDGE and UMTS, and an Italian forum presents a user contributed comparison that shows no great difference between them

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